Mobile App Accessibility ADA Lawsuits Will Trend Up in 2021

iphone with apps on screen

As I was extracting data from October, November, and December 2020 lawsuits, I noticed an uptick in mobile app lawsuits — and not just from a single law firm but from a scattered few.

  • Law Office of Duran
  • Shaked Law Group
  • East End Trial Group
  • Leal Law Firm
  • Acacia Barrows Law Firm

Every lawsuit I came across contained some variation of the app not being compatible with Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader.

Here are some specific claims:

  • missing alt text
  • redundant descriptions
  • mislabeled elements
  • touch target too small

As of 2021 — and especially when it comes to mobile accessibility — I highly recommend WCAG 2.1 AA conformance.

While 2.0 AA conformance is a great baseline, I refer to it as the classic standard now because it was originally published in 2008, well before mobile usage became so dominant.

Read my article on the difference between WCAG 2.0 AA and 2.1 AA.

An important caveat is that WCAG requirements are for web content, not native mobile apps. In other words, WCAG doesn’t trace perfectly to mobile; some of the success criteria don’t apply.

The good news is WCAG has draft documentation that covers the success criteria that do apply to mobile. The best practice for mobile app accessibility is to follow this document.

An asymmetry currently exists where plaintiffs’ law firms have only the downside of the time to fill out paperwork + filing fees (if any) whereas prospective defendants are in a position where, if they have yet to address accessibility, a net loss of $7,500 is a small victory of sorts.

Thus, just solely focusing on risk mitigation, it’s best to take care of digital accessibility now and maintain conformance.

Websites will still dominate 2021 litigation but it’s obvious that we’ll see more demand letters and lawsuits sent over mobile apps.

Thus, while you’re working on your website, I highly recommend addressing your app accessibility as well.

Automated scans are quite useful for flagging potential accessibility issues (scans can fairly accurately detect 25% of WCAG 2.1 AA success criteria) but there are currently no mainstream scans (sometimes called checkers) that flag issues on mobile apps.

The tempered good news here is that the lack of an automated check contributes to less organizations with mobile apps being sued (because there isn’t a quick way to assess the accessibility of applications).

WAVE and AXE are the two best free scans for websites.

Usually it’s larger enterprises that have apps (and are targeted in app lawsuits) so even if your organization has a robust tech team, it’s advantageous and usually much more efficient to source out accessibility to a reputable company who offers digital accessibility services.

Services typically include manual accessibility audits, user testing, documentation (e.g. policy creation assistance, conformance statement, certification, etc.), remediation and/or tech support, and legal support.

It is vital that you contract with a legitimate provider. There are a number of vendors who are either scam overlay sellers or digital marketing agencies masquerading as accessibility experts.